Amy Goldschlager is an editor, proofreader, content manager, and reviewer whose work has been published in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Locus, AudioFile magazine, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. She is Jewish, but mostly enjoys being Christmas-adjacent (all of the presents and parties, none of the work). Here are her good things for people a little too overwhelmed by the holiday spirit.
Good things to read.
The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore decidedly and hysterically cuts through the Christmas treacle, with a tale of a child’s wish gone terribly, terribly wrong, eventually resulting in party-crashing zombies. There’s also a gift-of-the-magi situation that involves a broadsword and a glass bong.
Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas but it’s set in winter, describes lovely parties and mouthwatering feasts, and features a difficult, overbearing relative who thinks she knows what’s best for everyone (The worst part? She probably does); so, close enough. It also involves thrilling swordplay, dizzying political maneuvering, and incredibly witty repartee.
Black Cocktail is a chilling story by Jonathan Carroll that used to be available as a standalone book, but can also be found in his collections The Woman Who Married a Cloud or The Panic Hand. The narrator of “Black Cocktail” learns that every person possesses one-fifth of a soul, and sets out to find his other four soulmates. This is the perfect antidote for anyone on Santa’s Naughty List and who’s sick of simmering in a general feeling of goodwill.
Good things to watch.
Blackadder’s Christmas Carol is also a must for the grinchy among us, particularly for those who only associate Rowan Atkinson with Mr. Bean. Ebenezer Blackadder is the sweetest, most generous man in Victorian London until a Christmas spirit accidentally shows him the error of his ways.
Tokyo Godfathers is a visually sumptuous animated film written and co-directed by Satoshi Kon. Three homeless people—a drunk, a drag queen, and a teenage runaway—discover an abandoned baby girl on Christmas Eve and attempt to bring her back to her mother. Although the characters themselves are probably not Christian themselves (they do attend a nativity play, but it’s only to grab a free meal), they’ve obviously absorbed some of the holiday’s trappings. Unlike many Christmas stories, the movie manages to be sentimental without being saccharine. Kon died too soon at the age of 46; it’s worth checking out the rest of his oeuvre, particularly the brilliant and poignant meta-narrative Millennium Actress.
The Wicker Man (the original 1973 version, not the remake (which we all must pretend never happened). Make sure it’s a director’s cut, not one of those bowdlerized versions where Howie only spends one night on the island.) Reject the season entirely and watch some pagans having a good (if ethically questionable) time on May Day. Sexy folk songs! Britt Ekland’s body double dancing nude! Christopher Lee in a dress! What more could you ask for?
Good things to use.
Fire Cider is an elixir for what ails you this chilly and bibulous season–plus, it just plain tastes good. The makers of this delightfully spicy apple cider vinegar mixture claim that it’s good for curing hangovers and preventing colds. It’s also a condiment and a cocktail mixer. I pour a shot into my seltzer, add some apricot nectar, and swig.
GRID-IT! is an essential for anyone who’s always losing track of small objects (keys, cables, card cases, mints, assorted stocking stuffers) in one’s purse or messenger bag. It’s a flat panel covered in interleaved elastic straps of varying lengths. Just slide each of your valuables underneath a strap and voilà—all your little necessaries are at your fingertips. (Once it’s full, it kind of looks like 3D Tetris.)
Ambiance is a versatile white noise app that will help you block out the uproar of too-loud caroling or any other flavor of raucous merrymaking. It offers hundreds of soothing and occasionally strange sounds sampled from nature, machinery, urban scenes, instruments, and elsewhere, which you can listen to individually or mix together for blended pleasure. I quite enjoy my Winter Water mix, which incorporates “Frosty Winter Lake,” “Icy Waves By The Lake Shore,” “Snowfall On An Umbrella,” and “Winter.”
Connect with Amy Goldschlager on Twitter, @AmyGoldschlager.